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Wayne Graham Says Rice Won't Extend His Contract

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(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Longtime Rice coach Wayne Graham told Fox 26 Sports in Houston that his contract will not be extended following the season, bringing an end to his storied career at the helm of the program.

Graham, 82, is in the final year of a six-year deal he signed in 2012. He has led the Owls to 23 straight NCAA Tournament appearances—the third longest streak in the country—21 conference championships, more than 1,100 wins and the 2003 national championship.

But in recent years, the Owls have slipped. Rice has not won a regional since 2013. The consecutive regionals streak would have ended last season had the Owls not won the Conference USA Tournament and the automatic bid that comes with it. This year, Rice is 16-23-2 and currently wouldn’t even qualify for the CUSA Tournament, though it is just a game behind eighth-place Florida International with 12 games to play.

In the Fox 26 Sports story, Graham said he has heard that an unidentified former player has been campaigning for his job. That has been rumored around college baseball for the last couple years, though never confirmed.

“Perhaps it is time to exit Rice,” Graham told Fox 26 Sports. “My wife and I love Rice and what it has stood for. So we leave reluctantly. I’m making this public statement to Rice Nation so that the people we have served all these years know exactly how I feel.”

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Those close to Graham do not expect him to step away from the game, despite his age. He was actively seeking a contract extension from Rice and remains strongly connected to the game.

Graham’s exit from Rice is the latest in a long line of head coaching greats whose tenures have come to an end in recent years. Miami’s Jim Morris and UC Irvine’s Mike Gillespie are retiring after this season. Mark Marquess did so at Stanford last year. Augie Garrido stepped aside at Texas after the 2016 season.

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